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Sea World Could Add 13 Theme Parks In $3.4B Bid To Buy Cedar Fair

Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. has made an unsolicited offer to buy theme park operator Cedar Fair for $3.4B, according to Bloomberg.

If the deal goes through between the two publicly traded companies, SeaWorld could add 13 theme parks and thousands of acres of real estate to its portfolio. 

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Cedar Fair, based in Sandusky, Ohio, owns 13 parks, 12 of which operate seasonally. According to a 2020 year-end Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Cedar Fair's real estate holdings include about 4,500 acres. SeaWorld owns about 2,000 acres. 

CNBC reported that Cedar Fair's market cap is $2.8B compared to SeaWorld's market cap of $4.6B.

CNBC quoted Stifel analyst Steven Wieczynski, who wrote in a research note that SeaWorld "has lacked a more robust geographical footprint and lack of season pass penetration,” and acquiring Cedar Fair "would give them a bigger presence across North America and would allow them to more effectively cross market some of their bigger assets.”

SeaWorld suffered from bad publicity following the 2013 documentary Blackfish, and has since emphasized conservation, research and rides at its theme parks. 

In Sandusky, Cedar Fair’s flagship Cedar Point theme park sits on 870 acres with a waterpark, hotels, restaurants, employee housing complexes, three marinas, an upscale campground, a sports center and 145 undeveloped acres.

Cedar Fair’s other properties include:

  • King’s Island, near Cincinnati — 680 acres.
  • Knott's Berry Farm, near Los Angeles — 175 acres.
  • California's Great America, in Santa Clara, California — 175 acres.
  • Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort in New Braunfels, Texas — 90 acres.
  • Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston in Galveston, Texas — 40 acres.
  • Canada's Wonderland, near Toronto — 295 acres.
  • Carowinds, in Charlotte, North Carolina — 400 acres.
  • Kings Dominion, near Richmond, Virginia — 740 acres.
  • Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pennsylvania — 210 acres.
  • Worlds of Fun, in Kansas City, Missouri — 350 acres.
  • Valleyfair, near Minneapolis/St. Paul — 190 acres.
  • Michigan's Adventure, in Muskegon, Michigan — 260 acres.

Cedar Fair also manages and operates a theme park in Gilroy, California. All of the parks operate seasonally except for Knott's Berry Farm, which is open year-round.

Combined, Cedar Fair’s parks host 26 million guests annually and generate revenues of more than $1.3B, according to its website. A November earnings release indicated attendance in Q3 of 2021 was 82% compared to the same period of 2019, yet net revenues totaled a record $753M, up 5% from the same time frame. 

According to SeaWorld’s 2020 year-end filing, it owns just over 2,000 acres that include:

  • SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and Aquatica in Orlando — 418 acres.
  • Busch Gardens, Adventure Island and SeaWorld headquarters in Tampa — 362 acres.
  • A breeding and holding facility in Dade City — 109 acres.
  • Sesame Place San Diego — 66 acres.
  • SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Point in San Antonio — 415 acres.
  • Busch Gardens and Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Virginia — 654 acres.
  • Sesame Place, near Philadelphia — 55 acres.
  • SeaWorld also leases approximately 190 acres from the city of San Diego for SeaWorld San Diego. 

Of its holdings, about 400 acres of land are for future development.

According to the Sandusky Register, local officials expressed concern that Cedar Fair's corporate headquarters could be relocated and affect the tax base if the company were to be acquired. However, Cedar Fair has been targeted for takeover before; company leaders rejected a $4B takeover bid from Six Flags in 2019.